S3 Science Field Trip

HKSTP: Robo Workshop & The Green Trail

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Overview

For the end-of-year Science field trip, the S3s visited the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP). Our cohort was separated into two large groups, one taking part in the Robo Workshop and the other exploring the Green Trail.

The Robo Workshop gave us an opportunity to refresh our ICT skills and also gain exposure on certain concepts in mechanics.  The objective of the workshop was to design a spinner that would spin the longest, which involved attaching a motor to a spinner, and programming the motor to make the spinner spin.

The Green Trail showcased many different forms of technology and architectural designs that were eco-friendly and helped conserve energy. Most of the buildings were designed to reduce the usage of air-conditioning and electricity for lights. 

Robo Workshop

By Spencer Chan (S3S)  and Phoenix Lam (S3M)

In this hands-on workshop, we first learnt about axles, gears and gear ratio, how they play an integral part in the construction of a motor and how the motor works.   

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Next, we proceeded with constructing a motor and a prototype spinner using lego pieces, following the instructions from a manual on the laptop. We learnt about the role of motion sensors attached to the motor, with each motion sensor comprising infrared sensors to help detect motion. Then, we used the  programming software Scratch, which we had prior experience in lower secondary, to program the motor to carry out its task of initiating the spinning motion of the spinner once attached. The motor was programmed with a set of instructions which enabled it to spin when the distance detected by the motion sensor was smaller than a specific length. As a result, the motor was started when the spinner attached to it was close to a plane surface. It would allow the the spinner to spin at a constant initial speed once released, so now the design of spinner and the environment (e.g. wind) surrounding the spinner are the only factors which will affect the time the spinner takes to spin after release.

Our next task was to redesign the prototype spinner with the aim to make the spinner last as long as possible (>60 seconds), with the instructor starting us off with ideas on how to make alterations to the structure. These hints included whether the spinner had structures with corners or is round (which will affect air resistance) as well as the weight distribution of the spinner (which affects the centre of gravity thus the stability of the spinner). After redesigning the spinner, we had a mini inter-group competition to see which group’s spinner could spin the longest. A group of boys won the competition using their flat and symmetrical spinner which had a low and concentrated centre of gravity. It can therefore be concluded that the stability of the spinner is directly influenced by the weight distribution and the shape of it. Though our batch of students did not break the record of 64 seconds, we came close and the instructor closed off the workshop by showing the original spinner which made the record, explaining to us that a heavy spinner with a rounded middle (e.g. a tyre inserted through an axle) would a) increase stability of the spinner when spinning since it has a lower centre of gravity, and b) minimise air resistance.

Green Trail

By Clare Tso (S3S) and Winky Chan (S3R)

On this trail, one of the designs we were introduced to was the Water Curtain. It utilises rainwater to create vertical streams of cold water which helps cool the warm wind blowing into the building, thus reducing the need for air conditioners.

The Courtyard Ventilation System consists of various designs. The courtyard was designed to have a long structure which extended upwards, allowing heated wind to rise up. The irrigation system for plants is designed such that water can be collected and reused. Another design was the switch lamps. These were short in height and their light rays travelled downwards, which prevented light pollution.

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There were also Motorised Sun Louvres which were controlled by sensors. When too much sunlight is detected, they would automatically close to reduce the heat emitted from the sunlight. Their design also included holes for ventilation purposes. The building was also layered with insulating material in order to prevent the building from heating up, with white patterns on windows to prevent birds from crashing into it.

Next, we went to the Green 18 building. Its exterior had two layers of glass which was separated by an air gap and since air is an insulator of heat, the building remained cooler. Office rooms in the building had two types of sensors, one being the sunlight sensor which automatically turned off the lights in the room when strong sunlight is detected. The other sensor was a human sensor which turned off all air-conditioning when there was lack of infrared emissions by people. The building was also designed to have a glass ceiling, allowing light to pass through and reducing the use of electricity for lights. There were mirrors to help reflect the sunlight into the building, with small windows on the top to allow warm air to escape from building.

Conclusion

Overall, the visit to the science park was truly an extremely memorable and eye-opening experience. We were not only introduced to numerous innovative designs, but also various environmentally friendly technologies that we never knew could be applied almost anywhere. Those who participated in the Robo workshop had a valuable opportunity to refresh a forgotten skill with the programming software Scratch. These various high-end forms of  technology provide a small taste of the future, as it opens up boundless possibilities in the STEM field and plays a crucial role in creating a better, more efficient world for the society where everyone could be  more environmentally-conscious. A vision requires action to change the world and this “vision without action is merely a dream” ~John A. Barker.